Sheetz, Tomato Supplier Settle Over Tainted Produce

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Sheetz, Tomato Supplier Settle Over Tainted Produce

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. -- A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by Sheetz Inc., which accused its tomato supplier of providing tainted tomatoes in July 2004, according to a report by the Altoona Mirror.

A Blair County, Pa., jury was expected to hear the case between Sheetz and Coronet Foods Inc. of Wheeling, W.Va., but the trial was called off after Judge Jolene G. Kopriva was informed of the out-of-court settlement, the newspaper reported.

Terms of the settlement reached on Friday were not disclosed. However, Sheetz earlier indicated that a conservative estimate of the damages it suffered was more than $11 million, according to the Altoona Mirror.

Coronet Foods admitted its liability in providing tainted tomatoes to many Sheetz stores on July 12, 2004. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, more than 425 people were stricken with salmonella poisoning as a result of the bad tomatoes.

At that time, Sheetz had 330 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Customers in all of those states fell ill.

The original lawsuit filed in Blair County was brought against Sheetz and Coronet by Max C. Anslinger, who said he became very ill after eating some of the tomatoes.

"I'm just glad it's over," Anslinger told the newspaper. Sheetz made an effort to settle with its customers; Anslinger and many others were reimbursed for their medical problems.

The lawsuit continued as Coronet and Sheetz joined many other businesses to the lawsuit, including tomato growers from as far away as Florida.

Kopriva eventually dismissed civil charges against the tomato producers because of the inability to pinpoint where the tainted vegetables were grown. Coronet declared bankruptcy in 2004.

Mike Cortez, Sheetz vice president and general counsel, said the company took steps to maintain quality control of its food products prior to July 2004, but he said procedures have been stepped up since then "to assure our product is the safest possible."

Sheetz now takes steps to assure the purity of the foods before they arrive at local stores, and once in the stores, the products are inspected again, Cortez said.

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